I've been forced, I tell you! FORCED! It is ALL SAN'S FAULT! I'm so holding her accountable if I lose interest in ALAP and go on a mad posting spree with this.
Lost and Found
By Rurouni Star
She was empty.
At first, she thought it had happened that night. Just an absence of thought, an absence of caring. But then she realized it had happened a long, long time ago.
When the end came.
Oh, of course they won. Voldemort had been doomed before he'd even started his takeover – too many people aware, too many people ready to fight. And they had experience this time, and training.
No, it wasn't the end for the wizarding world. Life went on for everyone who hadn't been there, who hadn't seen time stop. But for her, it was still that day, and she was still watching as they tried to regather desperately, tried not to think of the pale, broken bodies, laying on the ground before them. As they realized…
…they had won.
Hermione was still there as the stunned silence descended.
No cheers, no cries of "Voldemort is gone!" no jumping or hugging or even tears over the dead.
She was still there that night, when they realized what they had lost. Time stopped as soon as she saw her two best friends staring up at her lifelessly. Because she still couldn't comprehend it.
What was that? A number. It meant nothing.
She was still there.
Hermione sipped at her hot chocolate, staring out the window and listening to the rain pounding and the thunder rumbling and the wind whistling oh-so-gently. And even though she tried to fill herself up with the vision, with the storms she had once loved so much, it just. Wasn't. Working.
With a sigh, she put down the mug and rubbed at her eyes. There were dark circles there, she was sure. Because sometimes, long into the night, she would stare at their faces and if she stared at them long enough, surely they would blink and ask her why she was doing it.
It was times like these, when she felt so very hollow, that she wondered what she was missing. It wasn't the magic. Not the magic she had lost all care for, or the wand she had hidden in the attic, or the book of Latin chants that had slowly found their way there too as she discovered she couldn't make herself look at them long enough to learn. It wasn't Hogwarts either, god, Hogwarts, the place she seemed to see everywhere, superimposed onto reality as they laughed and joked and played their stupid little pranks and talked about what an awful potions lesson that had been.
The woman sighed and rose from the little window seat, the one she'd built just so she could stare. And she decided, almost on whim, to find out.
What was missing.
The woman climbed the stairs slowly, pushing back the hair in her eyes – the hair she hadn't bothered to cut for years, the hair that had lost its curl slowly, the hair that had straightened out and changed and fixed itself while she hadn't – and she stopped below the attic door. Reaching her hand upward to clasp the handle. Wondering if this stupid idea would really do anything other than tell her where the hell her car keys went last week.
Hermione pulled down gently, cautious even now to keep the ladder from hitting her on the head. Her other hand reached up to catch it instinctively, pulling it down slowly. She could see the dust now. It was swirling down as she pulled on the ladder, like a fine mist on a cold night. And it hit her then that she ought to have kept her wand out just to keep the house clean, because it was something that would have been nice.
And as she climbed, she remembered…
Climbing up the attic ladder to Divination, coughing as the incense invaded her senses and the light turned musky. Glaring at the spectacled teacher to let her know in no uncertain terms that she was not here for her.
"Harry," she called quietly. "Dumbledore wanted to see you."
Trelawny sniffed disdainfully as the boy with the piercing green eyes moved to follow her, and Hermione pointedly ignored her back. Harry's lips twitched as he tried not to laugh, and they began to go down the stairs.
"Tonight… there will be death."
Hermione's lips thinned to a line, and she shut the attic door with a resounding slam.
Hadn't Trelawny died that night too? She couldn't remember. That had been afterward, when they pulled out that list of names. Hermione had still been standing there, staring, in her mind. She hadn't heard a single one.
Her hand reached out now, to brush away the dust on top of an old, worn trunk.
They hadn't protested, when she left. When she ignored the scholarships and the praise and the pre-emptive ministry positions. Dumbledore had simply smiled, an empty smile, just an attempt, for her. And he had patted her on the shoulder and said something vaguely comforting. She remembered that. Dumbledore could pierce through all your thoughts and all your layers and leave you bare, so she remembered.
She unlatched the trunk now. It was unlocked. She never bothered to lock it.
The lid opened with a groan, and she saw that no dust had found the inside. No, it wouldn't have. The magic was still there, even if she wasn't. The pages of her schoolbooks, still pristine, still purely white; her wand looking like the day she'd bought it.
Swish and flick, swish and flick – oh look, everyone, Miss Granger's got it!
A tiny, pained smile worked its way to her face.
What was it? It bothered her now. What had Dumbledore said?
Her fingers closed around the wand's handle, and it was at once both comforting and frightening the way it still fit. As though it had just been waiting, confident she would return.
What was it?
Swish and flick. Yes, there. She could still do it.
What did he… yes.
And if she pretended, she could still see, could remember the way the blackboard had looked, the equations and the incantations and the page numbers…
"You've done enough. Go live."
But her eyes met his and he knew she was dead inside.
"I'm… I'm missing something…" she whispered to herself.
The book was open and it was on that same page – page 264, exactly, in the fourth year charms textbook. After all, she still had every single one. In case… in case…
In case I wanted to study, wasn't it? In case the urge ever took me again. Like it has.
But this was just an experiment, a whim, a last feeble gasp before she let go of hope. Because something inside just had this annoying tendency, a natural inclination toward it. She wasn't entirely sure where she'd gotten it from.
Maybe from Harry.
"It'll all turn out, Hermione, you'll see… and… and when we win, we'll all go to Fred and George's shop and have a party. You know they'll bring out those fireworks they've been working on…" Her mind stuttered at this point, and she panicked. But it picked up bits and pieces. "…butterbeer… Ron's been wanting… firewhisky… will have to do…"
Oh yes. The incantation.
She was still staring at it.
There was a blank afterward. What was she looking for?
Something I need…
Her mind worked to remember the conjugations. Desiderium…mihi requienda desiderium…
Her grip tightened on the wand as she realized she had no idea what she was doing. What if this did something strange, what if she couldn't remember the right word and she ended up getting herself something dangerous… or already dead…
But she realized a moment later that it didn't matter.
So she raised the wand and pulled it back, swiped it downward once and said, in barely a whisper, "Mihi requienda desiderium…"
The magic surged through her, and she felt it, that empty brightness that gave you shivers and made you young again… the magic she'd slowly lost care for…
The sparks faded.
And it was dark again.
"Damn magic anyway," Hermione spat out, throwing the wand back into the trunk and turning on her heel to walk back down the attic stairs. Of course it wouldn't work. Why should it? Magic was never vague, it always required you to name what you wanted, saying a stupid little "something I need" wasn't going to help anything!
An inwardly directed fit of rage and self-pity built up inside of her as she walked to the table and threw the mug of chocolate to the floor. A strange satisfaction emerged as she watched it shatter there. The warm liquid flowed outward, leaving trails of heat and steam where it passed.
It wouldn't stain, she knew. It would clean up so easily, and she would never know that it had happened. Just like everything else that had come and gone since seventeen years ago.
But the fit passed as she stared at her drink slipping lazily down the linoleum, making its way toward her living room carpet. Because she hated messes. That was who she was, who she always would be. Hermione bent down with a shaking hand to pick up the shards of the mug and winced as her finger caught on an edge. A tiny line of blood began to well out, turning quickly into a bead and then a droplet that went crashing down to mingle with the chocolate. She sighed and pulled a rag down, ignoring it for the moment.
The chocolate cleaned up, like she knew it would. A little water, a little soap, and it had disappeared again. The only evidence that it ever had been was a messy cloth and a thumb that had become smeared with blood.
"So magic can't fix everything," she murmured to herself, cradling her hand to her chest. "No one said it could." But she'd always thought so. Always, before then, she'd had this feeling that magic was… well… magic. Not just a tool or an art, but a fix-it-all, a miracle remedy. Now, though, she felt like she'd slurred against an old friend, one that hadn't deserved it.
She was kneeling on the floor now, broken and still not healing, despite the magic. But it had never been the magic. It had always been her.
The wand was still in the attic. She could bring it down, look at her books, reminisce a bit, maybe. "Perhaps I should-"
A thud against the front door startled her to her feet. Hermione swallowed.
What did I do, I screwed up, I knew I shouldn't have-
But it wasn't followed by anything else. Just the thunder and the rain.
She swallowed, wondering about the intelligence of going to the attic and getting her wand again. But she knew she wouldn't. She couldn't turn her back to the door, not for anything.
So, thinking herself marginally reasonable, she moved toward it quietly, head pounding with the rain now. It was probably just a stray dog or something, nothing to be frightened of…
Hermione had reached the door now, and she had to stop. She bit her bottom lip nervously. Surely this was just a coincidence-
Before she could stop herself, she forced her hand to dart out, latching onto the doorknob and pulling all at once.
The door opened inward easily.
And Hermione's breath hitched in her throat as she stared, petrified.
What other meanings are there? Desiderium, something I desire, something I need, something I wish for…
Something I grieve for.
"This is impossible," she whispered hoarsely. "You're impossible!"
But the rain-soaked, unconscious figure of Sirius Black did not respond.